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Can a vegan diet help heart disease?

Here at Healthpath, we’re proud to offer evidence-based advice. However, we’re aware that science can seem a bit impenetrable and dry. Boring, even.

We also believe that education is the first step to regain control. We read a lot of scientific papers, so we thought it would be a good idea to create a digest (no pun intended) of some of the key research.

We hope these plain-English versions bring the science to life and—even more importantly—help you address your symptoms for good.

 

“Anti-Inflammatory Effects of a Vegan Diet Versus the American Heart Association–Recommended Diet in Coronary Artery Disease Trial”

 

What’s the title in plain English?

A study assessing whether a vegan diet is good for heart disease.

 

What did they do?

Over a period of eight weeks, 100 patients with heart disease were assessed to compare the effects of a vegan diet versus the American Heart Association (AHA) recommended diet (which includes animal protein).

C-reactive protein (a marker of inflammation), body mass index, waist circumference, fasting blood glucose, insulin and levels of fat in the blood were all measured.

 

What were the take-home points from the study?

1. Participants were all white males (average age 60) and had a history of heart disease. Most of the participants also had high blood pressure and high levels of fat in the blood, and almost all the participants were on aspirin, a statin or antiplatelet drugs. Physical activity was accessed throughout the study and didn’t differ between groups.

2. The vegan diet resulted in a 32% decrease in CRP compared to the AHA diet. This means it was deemed to reduce inflammation. Energy intake was higher, but protein intake was lower in the vegan versus AHA dietary group. Micronutrient data showed that vitamin B12, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acid intake was lower in the vegan group. There was also a decrease in LDL cholesterol (‘bad’ cholesterol) in the vegan group, although this wasn’t statistically significant.

3. There are some limitations to this type of study, such as relying on participants to report their food intake via questionnaires. Furthermore, the vegan diet was only compared to one other diet, and thus strong conclusions cannot be drawn as to whether this diet is the best diet to support cardiovascular health. It will be interesting to see the follow-up results in five years.
 

The Healthpath view

Patients with cardiovascular risk factors and elevated CRP may benefit from a vegan diet. This study demonstrates a positive effect of removing animal protein—but it’s important to remember that this form of dietary intervention may not be suitable for everyone. Working with a Registered Nutritional Therapist is the best way to ensure you’re getting all essential macro and micronutrients.

 

Read the full published study here

Ref: Shah, B., Newman, J.D., Woolf, K., Ganguzza, L., Guo, Y., Allen, N., Zhong, J., Fisher, E.A. and Slater, J., n.d. Anti-In flammatory Effects of a Vegan Diet Versus the American. pp.1–14.

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